Who is Garrett Augustus Morgan?

by | Feb 8, 2012

Garrett Augustus Morgan

February begins the celebration of Black History Month. Each week this month, we will feature Black History Month facts that highlight accomplishments by African Americans in the field of transportation or safety. Since this is the first installment of this month long series, we feel it is appropriate to start this week’s feature by providing a bit of history behind the celebration.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson is largely credited for the creation of Black History Month. Dr. Woodson was the son of former slaves and worked in the Kentucky coalmines during his childhood. After teaching himself English and Math, he enrolled in high school at the age of twenty and graduated within two years. Dr. Woodson continued to defy the odds of his time and received a Masters degree in history from the University of Chicago, and later earned a PhD from Harvard. During his studies, he became disheartened to learn that the history of Black Americans was largely absent from the scholarly books he studiedand decided to do something about it.Dr. Woodson established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (now called the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History) in 1915, and in 1926 he began Negro History Week in an effort to bring national attention to the contributions of African Americans in early modernization. In 1976, Negro History Week expanded into Black History Month. Today, Black History Month is a federally recognized celebration that provides an opportunity for all Americans to reflect on the significant roles that African Americans have played in shaping our history, and is also celebrated annually in Canada in February and in the United Kingdom in October .

Black History Month Fact of the Week:

Garrett Augustus Morgan (March 4, 1877 – August 27, 1963) invented the modern version of the traffic light. After witnessing a traffic collision between an automobile and a horse and carriage, Morgan felt compelled to improve the safety of motorist and created “The Morgan traffic signal,” which was patented on November 23, 1923. This traffic signal was a T-shaped pole unit that featured three positions: Stop, Go and an all-directional stop position. This third position halted traffic in all directions to allow pedestrians to cross streets more safely. Morgan’s traffic light was successful in making the roadways safer and was eventually replaced by today’s familiar red/yellow/green traffic lights. Prior to his death, Morgan was recognized by the government for his invention, and received a government citation. BE SURE to check back next week for our next installment!

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